High School, First Place Winner – 2015 Essay Winner
Teacher: Ms. Jendian, AP Language and Composition

Everyone has a hero. A hero can be a personal mentor, like a father, or even a vast symbol, like the U.S. Marine Corps. On either side of the spectrum, they have something in common: the ability to inspire others to keep fighting. Our heroes give us strength through their honorable intentions, relentless courage, and commitment to excellence in every facet of their lives. As long as heroes exist, people like me also learn to protect others and take risks. Because my personal role models and those in service of our country demonstrate the virtues of honor, courage, and commitment through their actions, I strive to learn about those values and use them to help others.

First of all, honor means to uphold one’s own moral compass and while one may lose honor, one always has the opportunity to regain it, like Robert Downey Jr. for example. Also, those in service throughout U.S. history have honored our country simply by serving for it, whether it was a result of a draft or volunteering. Our military does not merely fight for the people, but it also fights to protect the very core values of our nation like freedom and equality. I will not pretend as if our armed forces are infallible and completely free from corruption, but I honor their willingness to make matters right. Personally, the hero that has shown me honor, Robert Downey Jr., coincidentally plays one on the big screen. I believe that it takes a strong sense of honor to come back anew after years of substance abuse. Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man, too, as a matter of fact, symbolize to me that even though I may stray from my moral compass, I can return from whatever mistakes I make and honor both myself and those around me. This belief gives me strength to rectify my errors in anything from relationships to schoolwork as I know that I reflect the people who believe in me.

Next, one can easily see courage in the work of the armed forces or even in the exploration of life, shown to me in particular by a close friend, Teagan Deleon. First, the work of the military presents a mystery to many of us ordinary civilians who can only imagine the adrenaline of battle and knowing that any moment could be your last. Including that, sometimes, soldiers must fire shots that kill one but save many. Second, even in everyday life, people must have bravery. For inspiring me to try new things and take chances, my best friend Teagan Deleon is my hero for courage. Because of her bravery and ability to stand up for herself at all times, I have learned that we must sometimes make decisions that we are not always comfortable with, launching ourselves into uncharted territory, but for the better.

Third, everyone has commitment and loyalty to the things that they treasure, but true heroes, like my role model Abby David or soldiers in the U.S. armed forces, dedicate themselves to helping others’ lives. Soldiers in particular not only protect their families but also their team in combat. One who holds a shield holds it not just for himself but also for everyone behind him. By knowing their accountability to the safety of their team and dedicating themselves to their protection, those in service truly display the virtue of commitment. Even the act of serving means the dedication of years of one’s life to the country without knowing when one will return home. Normal civilians also show sacrifices that they make in service of others- particularly a friend and role model of mine, Abby David. Last year, Abby served as the president of our high school’s Key Club, an organization dedicated to the service of others. Since I was Vice President, Abby and I spent hours working together to provide the club with opportunities to complete community service; through that hard work, Abby showed me and the other board members the difference that a team of committed individuals can make on people’s lives. Along with helping out mere strangers, Abby has also inspired her own members to love serving others, a trait that I hope will guide them through life even past high school. In this sense, my hero of commitment, Abby David, continually motivates me to dedicate my energy towards helping my peers with schoolwork or lending an ear to a friend seeking counsel.

Finally, both our personal heroes and our armed forces embody the traits needed to help others. From their honoring of their own moral code, or bravely making the hard decisions, to committing themselves to the service of others, our heroes demonstrate to us the importance of our values in every step of life.

Bio: 2015 High School FIRST PLACE: Heroes by Michelle Fong, a grade 11 student from Helix Charter High School in La Mesa, CA., and submitted by teacher, Aleen Jendian.

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